Guide to educational websites

19:41, Mar 10 2009

The internet is a bit of a minefield for young people. Not only are there viruses, scammers, and shady types to steer clear of, there's also a lot of stuff online you'd rather they not see until they're 18.

But that's only half of it. The Web is also a massive time waster. Your kids might be reading something enlightening, but more likely they're watching funny clips on YouTube. That's not helping them get smart.

Whether you're raising the next Einstein, your kid needs help with their homework, or you just want to make sure they're learning during the hours they spend playing games, there are plenty of kids websites out there that are both educational and fun. Here are iDom's picks.
A website for the very young ones, Crayola has games, craft ideas, colouring pages to print out. Also contains resources for teachers and parents.
Another one for pre-schoolers, although they may need help navigating around the site. They can choose songs to sing and dance along to, match shapes and colours with the help of friendly dragons and interact with their favourite TV characters including Barney and the Teletubbies.
For children 2-8 years. Games, puzzles, mazes, colouring exercises and audio stories. Kids will also be able to explore playworlds where they can interact with  colourful characters such as princesses and dragons in virtual worlds.

Ten points for the names of the games on this site. Kids can learn their parts of speech with the Grammar Gorillas, and test their science knowledge with Proton Don. Also has engaging blogs for girls 6-9 and girls 10+ and boys 6-9 and 10+.
There's lots to do on this website, including breeding virtual fish, building snowmen, and playing chicktionary - a fun version of scrabble with chickens. There's also a range of maths, social studies and science activities.
Wacky Web Tales is a great site for teaching the parts of speech and the fun that can be had with words.  Children are asked to suggest adjectives, verbs, people and places and these are used to create fun and - as the name suggests - wacky rhymes.
This has a whole range of educational sections on history, science, animals, maths, dinosaurs, as well as activities and games. Kids can build their own aliens and learn to play chess.
NASA Kids' Club has space-themed games, information for children about NASA and what it does. Kids can build virtual rockets and test their knowledge of the solar system. Activities vary in difficulty depending on their age.
Disney's Club Penguin is a virtual world for kids. They can dress up their penguin, decorate their igloo, chat with other members, read blogs and comics, submit their own art and print out Club Penguin colouring pages. The site offers safety advice for parents, who can choose between two moderated chat settings for their children. Membership starts at US$6 for a month.

This website requires a fast internet connection. A SPARC and government initiative, it's meant to encourage physical activity and healthy eating. Kids can learn how to kick rugby balls, find out about different foods and earn points that can be redeemed at a virtual rewards shop. For 5 to 12 year olds.
A tri-lingual educational website sponsored by NZ Post that asks kids to plan their birthday party for the year 2050, choose a venue, think about how much they will need to spend, and who they will invite. Kids can choose to answer questions in English, Maori or New Zealand Sign Language.
A Wellington City Libraries website with book recommendations and book reviews submitted by kids. Word games, quizzes and links to a whole lot of other games websites including Roald Dahl, Peter Rabbit and Dr Seuss-themed websites. Includes a blog for kids and a homework help section where they can consult the online junior encyclopedia Britannica, and ask librarians for help online.
Helps kids find information on the Web. Librarians are online between 1pm and 6pm on weekdays, and can chat with your child to help them find the information they need. At the end of the session, the relevant links will be emailed so kids can go back and look at the pages they found. The site includes search tips and suggestions for presenting and evaluating research.
An Education Ministry website. Kids can have a go at quizzes and crosswords and play interactive games in English and Te Reo Maori. The site has profiles of famous or inspirational New Zealanders. Kids can create their own websites, and are shown ways to research and present information.

Google Earth lets users view maps and satellite imagery of the earth, including cities and suburbs. The basic version of Google Earth is free, more advanced versions cost US$20 or US$400 a year
Google Sky lets users find the position of planets and constellations and witness the birth of faraway galaxies as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Google Moon provides a range of lunar maps and charts and information about Apollo missions including where exactly each mission landed.

The Dominion Post